CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
She was swinging a bag of fresh Jamaican patties. The delicious spicy aroma made her mouth water. Suddenly, out from the bushes popped her enemy number one, Mean Old Miley."
Ruby, a grade three girl, lives in fear of her fellow classmate, Miley, who constantly teases her about her curly hair. Miley makes Ruby so upset and angry that she gives him a bloody nose by throwing a toy at his face. Kate, a visiting friend who also has curly hair, shares a "magical spell" with Ruby that may turn Miley into a friend, but Ruby's fear of Miley overwhelms her at their next encounter, and she runs away without turning on the "charm." In desperation, Ruby attempts to curb her curls with the use of hair gel, an action which proves to be a temporary solution. Mean old Miley's cruel raps are heard as Ruby's curls pop out while she is jumping rope with her friend Allison.
A few days later in rainy weather, a bored Ruby goes over to Allison's house. Allison's frazzled mother enlists Ruby's help to entertain several four-year-olds at Allison's brother Ted's birthday party. Allison and Ruby play various games, but Jonathan, who is big for his age, keeps scaring the other kids with his present - a dinosaur mask. Suddenly, Miley appears. Allison asks Miley to help entertain the kids with his raps in return for goodies and extra pieces of cake. However, Miley must agree not to tease Ruby.
The deal works. The four-year-olds are fascinated by Miley's raps, "payment" is offered, and, incredibly, Ruby and Miley become friends.
Bye bye bullies! Bullying behaviour is a common occurrence in life. It can take various forms and can be a form of attention seeking behaviour. Many children will be able to relate to Ruby's fear, frustration, and silence in the face of bullying, or like Ruby, they may react in anger and cause physical harm to the bully. In Fuzzy Wuzzy, none of these strategies worked for Ruby. Miley changes his behaviour only when he is acknowledged for the things he can do well. The bullying ends, and Miley and Ruby become friends.
In general, this is a well written book that compassionately deals with the subject of bullying. Positive attitudes and communication skills are modeled for the reader, and Ruby, the victim, is portrayed as a resilient little girl. While bullies and their victims will be able to relate to Charles' story, I felt that the conflict in this story was solved rather too easily, and I was disturbed at the author's inability to break the very real "code of silence" that surrounds the issue of bullying. Although Ruby's mother probes for information regarding Ruby's behaviour and feelings about her hair, Ruby is not forthcoming with any details regarding the bullying. She turns to a peer rather than to an adult to help her resolve the situation. With the media reporting acts of despair and violence among youth, where is the corresponding message that it is okay to "tell an adult" about bullying activities? Disclosure scenarios might be part of the discussion around bullying. Telling isn't snitching. Bullying is wrong, and children need not suffer and/or resolve it in silence.
Generally, children will enjoy this book. Cartoon-like pencil sketches prevent the materials from becoming didactic. Italicized font indicate words that the character intends to be mean and bullying. In this way, unacceptable behaviour and/or words are pointed out to the reader. Overall, this is a good read which needs discussion to fill out some of the gaps.
Denise Weir is a consultant with Manitoba Culture Heritage and Tourism, Public Library Services.
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